Photography by Jeremy Kramer
Cheesemaking requires a level of care that might intimidate the most natural obsessives, i.e., chefs. There are, as Todd Kelly says, “so many variables” in the process, and he can describe every step in the learning curve—such as the increasingly OCD levels of sanitation needed or the seasonally evolving flavor of goat’s milk or the proper procedure for ash brining. The result, though, after experiments that ranged from an inedible blue-green mess to not quite right, is one of Orchids’ singular achievements: a French Valençay-style cheese made in-house and served with a piece of golden honeycomb from the hotel’s rooftop hives. Yes, the milk is lightly pasteurized (Sacre bleu!), but if you do not regularly fly to the Loire Valley or milk your own goats, you’re going to be blown away by this cheese. With its classic top-lopped-off pyramid shape, its delicate ash-and-white-bloom rind (the restaurant makes its own ash out of burnt leek tops), and a creamy-nutty flavor that with a bit o’ honey becomes something akin to dairy-induced perfection, it is a fitting end to a meal at Orchids, where everything is a tribute to Old World elegance, classic technique, and—yes—a little obsessiveness.
Check out our Best Restaurants 2017 review of Orchids at Palm Court.